‘Lying in state‘ is an honor reserved for distinguished government and military officials. Rep. Elijah Cummings made history last year, becoming the first Black lawmaker to be honored in this way when his body was lain in state in Statuary Hall. Lewis is the first Black lawmaker to lie in state at the Rotunda.
Lewis’ casket arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland early Monday and was transported via motorcade to the US Capitol where it was escorted into the Rotunda by a military honor guard. The motorcade stopped at Black Lives Matter Plaza where Washington Mayor, Muriel Bowser, presented the congressman’s son, John Miles Lewis, a Black Lives Matter Plaza street sign. There, Lewis’ family stood by a mural depicting his final public appearance. On Sunday, June 7, Lewis visited the plaza and saw firsthand the message he personified painted on the streets of DC in huge, yellow block-letters: Black Lives Matter. Lewis called the piece “a powerful work of art.”
There was an outdoor public viewing following the ceremony yesterday, which welcomed members of the public in the evening. Despite the growing pandemic and extreme summer heat, crowds lined the streets to pay their respects. By Monday evening, the crowd stretched for blocks, finally thinning as it neared the Supreme Court building.
As of this writing, Lewis’ body lies in state on the East Front Steps of the Capitol. Members of the public will be able to pay tribute to the late civil rights icon throughout the day today, but are required to adhere to social-distancing and DC mask guidelines.